ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. — It all seemed to be lined up perfectly for Josef Newgarden on Sunday at Road America.
He started on the pole, led 42 of 55 laps, and appeared to be cruising to his first win (and Penske’s first win) of the season, only to be denied the win by mechanical issues late in the race handing the race to Alex Palou. It’s the third win of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing as a team.
Palou was able to jump Newgarden on a late restart with two laps to go and pulling away to his second win of the season. Newgarden limped home to a 21st place finish as his car’s gearbox gave out.
The late restart was the result of a late caution for Ed Jones who’s left rear suspension failed, further adding to the bad luck that Team Penske is experiencing this season.
The win for Palou catapults him back into the lead of the championship standings, assuming a 28 point lead over Pato O’Ward, who came home ninth.
Palou said he was shocked to be able to get around Newgarden so easily.
“I don’t know what really happened,” Palou said to the IndyCar Radio Network. “The No. 10 NTT Data car was amazing today. This is my favorite place to race. When we have the chance to win we have to take it and we did today.”
Colton Herta came home second and Will Power was third after experiencing his own back luck at Detroit last weekend.
The race was the debut of Kevin Magnussen in the NTT IndyCar Series. He led a few laps off strategy mid-way through the race but had to retire soon after pitting around that time when his engine inexplicably shut down.
Magnussen, who regularly drives for Chip Ganassi in IMSA and is a former F1 driver, is scored as having finished 24th.
Scott Dixon was able to keep pace with Palou and O’Ward in the points by finishing fourth and Romain Grosjean (R) claimed another top-five finish in fifth.
Grosjean made 17 passes and was throwing punches left and right in fighting for the fifth-place result.
“Man, I would love to get a win here soon,” Power said, reflecting the feeling among all the drivers in the Penske stable as the team has now gone nine straight races without a win. The result adds to Penske’s longest losing streak since the 1999 season when they went winless.
Newgarden’s championship hopes are certainly in jeopardy as he has led the most laps in the last two races, but again fell victim to the bad luck Team Penske has had all season for the second time race in a row.
“Down the front straightaway, as soon as I got to fifth gear, I tried to shift to sixth, and it didn’t take the selection, so I was stuck in fifth,” Newgarden said. “I was trying to get it up to sixth gear, and it wouldn’t go. Then I got stuck in fifth in Turn 1. I finally got it to go down, and I just could not get it to upshift after that. I got it to first, essentially and tried to stay out of the way. I’m not sure what happened. Disappointing for all of us. I knew we had a great car all day.”
Meanwhile, Alex Palou is the first Chip Ganassi driver not named Scott Dixon to have two wins and the lead of the championship since Dario Franchitti in 2012.
The series will take a week off, before heading to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Round 10 of the NTT IndyCar Series schedule July 4.